The Skoda Yeti has earned a great reputation since its launch in 2009, gaining an impressive carwow score as a consequence. Most motoring experts rate the Yeti very highly indeed, praising its versatility, practicality, and parsimony, restricting criticism to its ungainly looks and firm ride.
I drove one briefly a few months ago and was equally impressed, so thought that it would be interesting to borrow one for a week to see if that initial gloss would lose its sheen over an extended period. Did it? Read on to find out!
The Yeti is a functional, rather than handsome, car, but its bluff front and practical proportions do hint at the breadth of its abilities; that square shape means that the interior space of which there is plenty is utilised fully, and I defy any family of four to find it lacking.
It must be more aerodynamic than it looks too, as it slips along at motorway speeds with only a whisper of wind noise and there is something satisfying in driving something that most people will dismiss as just an ugly estate.
The interior is much better than the exterior, exuding an air of quality; it really is as nice as anything in the VW stable this side of an Audi.
As well as having a premium feel there are myriad thoughtful design touches too, with plenty of storage space, helped by the Varioflex rear seats that fold, slide, and recline to free up the maximum possible space. My sons especially enjoyed the way the centre seat folded down into a table complete with cup-holders and it created a usefully-wide armrest that helped stop them squabbling over who was encroaching into the others space, too
The front seats are comfortable and supportive (my wife claims that theyre the most comfortable she can remember) and with the multi-adjustable steering wheel most drivers should be able to find their ideal driving position.
Luggage space in the boot is ample, with some clever touches in there such as the side-mounted hooks to hang your carrier bags from. These little touches make all the difference when you are living with a car for several years and its nice to see that Skodas engineers have devoted time to develop solutions to so many everyday frustrations.
The Yeti is very good to drive, feeling sprightly and meticulous in its execution. I drove it for eight hours at a stretch on one occasion and emerged fresh and ready to work, partly because the seats are so good, but also because everything operates so smoothly; the clutch and six-speed manual gearbox are a delight, the steering is light and precise, and the brakes powerful and progressive.
Youll appreciate the 4x4s Off-road button when you need to venture off the tarmac. It tailors the engine and brake management systems to cope with the sort of conditions that an off-roader will encounter; Uphill Start Assist allows full throttle movement, for example, but restricts engine revs to a maximum of 2,500 allowing for better control when climbing slippery surfaces, while Downhill Assist uses the cars Electronic Stability Programme to brake individual wheels to prevent the car sliding out of control.
Its a simple, easy-to-use system that allows drivers to get into and, more importantly, out of some quite challenging terrain. It might not have Land Rover worried but itll keep you moving no matter how bad the terrain or weather conditions.
The 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine fitted to my review car is a cracker, developing 168bhp and 258lb ft of torque. The official performance figures are a 0-62mph time of 8.4 seconds and a top speed of 125mph, and both figures seem entirely believable to me as instant urge is never a problem and overtaking slower traffic is a breeze.
The gearchange indicator light is unobtrusive and if you obey it you will be surprised at how high up the box you can change and still pull away without any grumbling from the engine; thank the fat wad of torque for that, one of the unseen benefits of driving a modern turbo-diesel.
Its an honest engine too; Skoda claims that 47.9mpg is possible, which is very close to the 42.2mpg that I managed over more than 600 miles, even though I made no special effort to eke out my fuel.
Value for Money
The Yeti range starts at 14,645 for the basic Yeti E with two-wheel-drive and rises to 23,445 for the top-of-the-range, four-wheel-drive Yeti Elegance, which represents excellent value given the multiple roles that it carries out; family taxi, off-roader, estate car, long-distance cruiser, B-road blaster.
Rivals on paper include the Hyundai ix35 and the Nissan Qashqai but in reality none of them come close. The only vehicle that does match the Yetis versatility is the Land Rover Discovery, which costs considerably more and makes the Yeti a positive bargain.
The Skoda Yeti is an astonishingly competent car. I cant remember ever having driven anything at this price that fulfils so many needs and, yes, desires.
Its very satisfying to drive and is so practical, intelligent, and economical that it is the only test car Ive driven for a long time that I would consider buying; the Skoda Yeti, especially in 4×4 form, really is the ultimate family car.
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